Three-Goal Rally Lifts Bobcats to Game Three Triumph
BISMARCK, ND – Trailing 2-0 early in the second period, the Bismarck Bobcats rattled off three straight goals to edge the top-seeded Austin Bruins 3-2 Friday at the VFW Sports Center and claim a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five-game Central Division Finals.
When C.J. Smith’s fourth goal of the series boosted the visiting Bruins to a 2-0 lead with 13:16 left to go in the second, things looked dire for the homestanding Bobcats with Bruins goalie Nick Lehr heating up between the pipes.
Moments later, things went from bad to worse when forward Matt Anders was lost for the night to an upper-body injury, but the Bobcats were able to draw a penalty on Cody Dixon for tripping with 11:13 showing in the middle frame.
Fifteen seconds into the man advantage, Shane Omdahl—Anders’ replacement on Cats’ the top power play unit—popped home a centering pass from Seth Blair at the 10:58 mark of the stanza to get the Bobcats on the board at 2-1.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to our fans, who showed up big-time for us tonight,” noted Omdahl on the 1,290 supporters in the stands Friday, who started chants and raised cheers after Smith’s goal to help spur on the home side. “They got loud at the right times and I think they made a big difference in the game.”
It was the Bobcats’ first goal on the power play in eight tries during the series against the Bruins.
Following Omdahl’s goal, Lehr stood on his head—as he has done all series for the Bruins—denying a golden opportunity for Blair on a point-blank tap-in with 8:58 to go in the middle frame to keep it a one-goal contest.
All told, the Bobcats launched 19 shots at Lehr in the second period but only Omdahl could find the back of the net.
Bobcat netminder Aaron Nelson made some big saves of his own, wrapping monster stops on Riley Colvard and Nolan Kirley around the second intermission to hold his team within striking distance.
Austin pushed the pace to open the third, out-shooting the Cats 5-1 in the first seven minutes of the period.
Good fortune intervened on behalf of the Cats with 11:49 left in regulation as Levi Blom wound up for a one-time slap shot but lost his balance, sending a slow, wobbling shot toward the net. Lehr challenged hard, expecting a heavy blast from the rookie blueliner, but got crossed-up by the misfire as the puck bounced through his legs and in to tie the score at two.
When Ryan Callahan, seeing his first postseason action of 2013, drew a cross-checking penalty on Kirley in the dying moments of a Chris Diver holding penalty, the Bobcat power play sprang into action: scoring 21 seconds after a brief 4-on-4 ended as Matt Pohlkamp whistled home a one-timer off a Nate Repensky setup to boost the Cats to their first lead of the night at 3-2.
“You don’t have to look far to see how getting the power play back on track was huge for us,” explained Pohlkamp, who has tallied the game-winning goal in the Cats’ last three playoff victories. “The ‘PP’ got us back in the game and won it for us. If we don’t bury our chances 5-on-4 tonight it’s a completely different game.”
On the night, the Cats rang up a 2-for-4 mark on the power play while the penalty kill successfully negated both infractions the home side endured Friday.
In the closing stretch of the game, the Bobcat forecheck stymied the Bruins’ attempts to get up ice, with long in-zone tie-ups by Seth Blair, Filip Starzynski and Stanislav Dzakhov burning off most of the final two minutes of the game below the Austin goal line. The Bruins got out of their own end with 20 seconds left but heavy traffic in neutral ice caused the final seconds to spill off before Austin could even control the puck in the Bobcat end.
John Simonson struck for his fourth goal of the playoffs with 6:38 remaining in the first to give Austin a 1-0 lead after one, cashing in a 2-on-1 rush on the penalty kill with Chris Fischer. Smith popped home a Fischer rebound 6:44 into the second to double the lead to 2-0 before the Bobcats’ rally started.
Nelson remained sharp, turning aside 28 shots from the Bruins to secure his 10th career playoff win. Lehr impressed with 37 saves but could not avoid his second loss of the 2013 postseason.
The Bobcats now have an opportunity to punch their tickets to the 2013 Robertson Cup Tournament at Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, Tex., with a win Saturday. They have not clinched a playoff series at home since 2009 when they doubled up the Owatonna Express 6-3 in Game Five of the Central Division Finals for their first-ever Central Cup.
Game Four is scheduled for a 7:15 puck drop at the VFW Sports Center.
Tickets are on sale for the Cats’ final home contest of 2013 right now; fans can buy and print online 24 hours a day at BismarckBobcats.com or charge by phone at 222-3300.
Friday’s pivotal Game Three will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide on the official internet television partner of the NAHL, FASTHockey, at http://nahl.fasthockey.com. Pregame coverage gets under way at 6:45 PM.